Beyond Borders: #ShowingUp for Accessibility

Beyond Borders is TEDxLondon’s exploration of different topics and ideas that inspire and intrigue us. To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we are sharing our commitment to creating inclusive spaces.

Earlier this year, we worked with Citi to develop and launch an Accessibility Charter, bringing to life our commitment to creating inclusive spaces that leave no one behind (more on that later). We’re guided by our values of inclusivity, user-led experience, equity in design, openness and continuous improvement. 

The Accessibility Charter outlines our belief in the ‘social model of disability’ – a model that  explains that people are disabled and disempowered by barriers that exist in society, not by the disability/impairment that they are living with itself. These barriers can be physical, such as a venue not having an accessible entrance, but can also be less visible (but still hugely impactful), such as negative attitudinal beliefs. This framework has been, and continues to be, developed by disabled people.

We also believe that accessible design helps everyone – particularly when you take two key considerations into account:

  1. We will all be disabled at some point during our lifetime: disability is not a static concept but a spectrum. Whether we’re recovering from an injury or holding a child, we will all be beneficiaries of accessible design at some point during our lives.
  2. Thoughtful design can help many different audiences: from closed captioning being used to convey messages in busy spaces, to flat curbs making it easier for those with pushchairs or transporting large luggage to get around, thoughtful, inclusive design has an impact on all sorts of people in many different situations.

It’s important to us that we use the Charter to set out certain commitments towards creating inclusive, welcoming spaces at all TEDxLondon events. These are outlined in full in the Charter, but include:

  • providing quiet spaces at any of our events with 1000+ attendees;
  • providing content in a variety of accessible formats, such as providing closed captioning;
  • representing the personal stories of people living with disabilities onstage at our events;
  • providing anonymous access to accessibility support wherever possible;
  • conducting an ‘accessibility audit’ of any venues we use;
  • training and educating our volunteers to provide considered support;
  • providing priority access to the auditorium and any other spaces of interest at our events

You can read the full details of our commitment to accessibility in our Accessibility Charter.

Our progress so far

At TEDxLondon #BeyondBorders earlier this year, we launched a number of initiatives to make our event as accessible as possible, based on the principles outlined in our Accessibility Charter. These included live captioning, accessibility champions on site, and trialling a multipurpose ‘Quiet Space’ to give attendees the option to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the day.

We asked our audience for feedback and received some great comments, both positive and constructive. Suggested additions for next time included clearer signage to make sure everyone can find the Quiet Space, taking steps to ensure it’s as soundproofed as possible, and even providing herbal tea.

“There was almost a sense of community in the room”

TEDxLondon 2019 attendee

Why the Relaxed Room?

For TEDxLondonWomen, we wanted to push our commitment to accessibility further. That’s why we’re transforming the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre into The Relaxed Room, providing an accessible viewing experience right next door to where the speakers will be performing live onstage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Informal, relaxed and open to all, the Relaxed Room is designed for those who prefer smaller and less crowded auditoriums, who want to be able to come and go as they please and even chat quietly or tic, those with young children, and anyone who would prefer brighter lighting and lower volume. 

Those of you in the Relaxed Room will watch TEDxLondonWomen via a simulcast (live broadcast), without the usual restrictions we have to impose in our live area due to our filming commitments . During the breaks, you can meet the speakers, view our exhibition and generally take advantage of all of the activities available!

Help us to improve!

From the Quiet Space to the Relaxed Room, we are developing these ‘first of a kind’ TEDxLondon experiences in line with our Accessibility Charter and the needs of our audience in mind. It’s a learning experience for us and we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions we can consider for the future. Please get in touch at accessibility@tedxlondon.com.

About the International Day of Persons with Disabilities: 3rd December

“When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we move closer to achieving the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.”

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

First proclaimed by the UN in 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The 2019 theme is ‘Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and their leadership’, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’.

Further Reading: Access for All